On Saturday, November 19, John Wayne stars as John T. Chance in the 1959 classic western Rio Bravo, which airs at 10:30 pm on TCM. It follows Chance in Texas in the 1860s, where he and his former assistant are forced to try to keep a murderous brute behind bars long enough for the US Marshal to arrive on the scene and haul him away. Such was the significance of the film that influential director Quentin Tarantino described it as his “favorite movie to hang out in,” even stating that he wouldn’t date someone if he didn’t like the movie.
By the time Rio Bravo was released, Wayne was already a huge Hollywood star, with starring roles in the movies he starred in. A decade later, he would reach the pinnacle of his career, winning a Best Actor Oscar in 1969’s True Grit.
However, this success was not met without controversy or occasional setbacks.
In 1935’s Paradise Canyon, Wayne was played in some scenes by his body double Yakima Canutt, who also played her own character in the film, leading to some confusion among viewers.
Canutt, who claimed an honorary Academy Award in 1967 for his achievements as a stuntman and for developing failsafes to protect stuntmen, described having a “tough” fight scene between himself and Wayne’s character in the film.
During the fight, Michael Munn’s 2001 book John Wayne: The Man Behind the Myth noted that Canutt had to flip his opposite number over his head, thus actually doubling for Wayne in the scene.
This saw a camera shot of Canutt crashing into a table, like Wayne’s character, giving viewers a perfect view of the stunt double’s bald head. Except Wayne didn’t have a bald spot.
Canutt said, “When the film came on, the bald spot was very noticeable, and John and Paul Malvern, who was the producer, criticized me a lot. We couldn’t afford to reshoot it, so it came out as it was.” I was.”
Wayne was reportedly furious over the matter and did not want viewers to believe he was bald. Assessing the situation and wanting to upset the star, Canutt enlisted the help of a fan to write and complain about it.
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Wayne then punched Canutt through the glass front window, before performing a “flying football attack” on him, knocking the stunt double out of breath. Wayne then told him, “That’s from your ‘fan’ letter in New York.”
While Wayne’s joking relationship with Canutt endured, he was hostile toward other stars, including Hollywood legends Clark Gable and Gene Hackman, according to his daughter Aissa.
She said in the 1991 book John Wayne: My Father: “My dad called Gable cute but dumb at least four or five times, and now I wonder if it had anything to do with my dad’s friend John Ford. During the shooting for Mogambo, Ford and Gable had clashed time and time again and the ensuing feud had been years in the making.
“In my father’s way of thinking, disloyalty to allies, supporting his enemies in any way, was expressly prohibited. If Clark Gable faced John Ford, my father’s code required John Wayne to support his old friend”.
She added: “Gene Hackman could never come on screen without my father criticizing his performance.
“I wish I could tell you why he was so harsh on Hackman, but he never went into detail. Although it is pure speculation, if my father had lived to see more of his work, I think his view of Mr. Hackman would have changed. Back then, however, my father called Hackman “the worst actor in town.” He’s awful.'”
Río Bravo airs starting at 10:30 p.m. on TCM tonight.
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